Starring: Brad Pitt, Christophe Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger, Melanie Laurent
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Writer: Quentin Tarantino
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Original score: Ennio Morricone
Running Time: 153 Mins.
It is hard, being a fan of Tarantino and his quite prolific film-making and particularly script-writing talent’s, for since Jackie Brown back in 1998 Tarantino has squandered these talents and digressed more and more from making great, nay some of the finest, films to come out of Hollywood and continued down a slippery slope of using his personal love for film and afforts to show the world his love and passion by simply imbuing more and more of his films with retreads of bits from other films. Turning away from using these influences to inform how good his own script writing so clearly is and making films which show how childish and annoyingly fan-boyish a director can be, thus edging him closer to the depths mined by the likes of Uwe Boll…this may seem an extreme claim, however Tarantino’s output in the last 10 years has been on a par with Boll’s for entertainment value, and most certainly for pretension!
So let me break it down, great Tarantino scripts, the likes of Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and True Romance are snappy, gripping, witty and most of all entertaining, there is action and excitement and a whole raft of emption and indeed enjoyment to be garnered from his best scripts, I would even go as far as to say when he is on form Tarantino may well be the best. However this is a big WHEN, when he is off the boil, when he is indulging in his love of old cinema and its most exploitative of genres he becomes a slave to that way of film-making, to riff off this style is one thing but to totally recapture and imitate it is a big no no, this began with Kill Bill and only grew through Kill Bill Part 2 and reached its epitome with Death Proof.
Which brings me to the whole point of this little quandry, has Tarantino mustered up another dud, another film in his ever growing line of self indulgently weak and ultimately dull vanity projects…well yes, and no. You see Inglourious Basterds is one hell of a frustrating experience, two thirds of it are vintage Tarantino, some of his best work I might add, yet he still seems incapable of letting go the awful self indulgence that hampered Kill Bill et al. That I came away remembering largely the good parts does indicate how good those sections of the film were.
Broken down into five chapters Inglourious Basterds is not, as many were expecting, a Dirty Dozen style action film punctuated with some pithy Tarantino dialogue, nor is it a heavy War film, in fact it the direction owes much more to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Westerns, and this, avid film fans, is a good thing which marks the direction here out as some of his best, the shots bring you uncomfortably close to the action (and when I say action, I mean dialogue), bouncing from swooping round a table where the most intense interrogation takes place to quite possibly the years greatest scene in a bar that culminates in the director’s most favoured of standoff’s,there really is something special and deeply cinemtic to be found in the look of the film, helped in no small way by robert richardson’s cienmatography.
In breaking the film into chapters Tarantino has made this less a free flowing story and more a series of vignettes, the opening scene, an extended twenty minute interrogation of a French Farmer, by the aptly nick-named Jew Hunter and member of the SS Christoph Waltz. As ever Tarantino proves his eye for cast, yet rather than cast old hands who need a hit i.e. John Travolta or Pam Grier, he instead employs the, considerable, talents of up and comers such as Michael Fassbender and Waltz, that Waltz is by far the best thing about the film is quite some coup as Nazi’s are all too often boo hiss villains, whereas this one is so much more, charming, scary and very very funny when the script calls for.
But the big selling point is Brad Pitt, name splattered all over the posters he does not disappoint, given just enough screen-time so as not to become annoying with his jutting jaw and Southern drawl he spits out his lines with such relish you can’t help but have fun too, it is only when the director insists on giving into his current, and wholley immature penchant, for going over the top with violence for no reaosn other than to shock that the Basterd’s scenes falter. I’m tempted to put this down to Eli Roth’s Hostel influence, and certainly Roth’s appearance as “The Bear Jew” does nothing to sway these suspicions but the blame must squarely be levelled at Tarantino’s door, he should, quite frankly, know better, did we need a shot of bullets smattering someone’s face, to no comic effect or plot aadvancement? I think not, that Roth carries out said act only enhances my point further.
The plus sides though, far outweigh any misgivings and when scenes such as the one described above are preceeded by such dynamite dialogue in a bar, or interrogation scenes as gripping as any action you are likely to see all year you have to be thankful Tarantino has finally found his mojo again, now if he can exude his immature torture porn scenes and the odd self indulgent scene (yes there’s another foot fetish style scene) he might just make it back to Pulp Fiction territory, here’s hoping!
A huge step back in the right direction for Tarantino in terms of direction and most certainly script, it is joyous to see a master approaching the top of his game again, but for his self indulgent flourishes still present, there is an A class film within Inglourious Basterds, it is just a shame a third of it treads dire Tarantino territory!